50/50 Review #36: Double Indemnity.

My first and until now only Billy Wilder flick was The Apartment... which I didn't care much for. I didn't hate it, I just wasn't all that impressed and thought it was a bit uneven. So when I discovered today's latest flick was Billy Wilder, I wasn't exactly jumping through hoops to watch it. But should I have been? This 1944 noir classic follows an insurance salesman named Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) who, one day, goes to renew some auto insurance for Mr. Dietrichson (Tom Powers). But he's not home, and, instead, Walter meets the man's wife, Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck). Lust hits them quick, and it's not long before Walter realizes Phyllis actually wants to put up accident insurance on her husband and then knock him off to get the money. Walter wants nothing to do with it... at first. And then he begins using his inside knowledge on how they can pull the perfect murder and get twice the amount of money using a double indemnity clause. And everything seems to work perfectly... until Walter's boss, Keyes (Edward G. Robinson), starts to suspect something and begins inspecting the case further.

So far Steve has been been off in his estimations on how I'd react to his suggestions. He thought I'd love Devil's Backbone. I thought it was pretty good. He thought I'd really like My Favorite Year... I didn't. And he thought I'd like this one alright, but that's about it. And yet again, he's wrong. I absolutely loved this movie. Like... added to Top 3 favorite classics kind of love. I might let it sink in a little more, but my gut reaction was putting it in my number 2 spot, right behind 12 Angry Men (which is my current favorite classic). There was hardly one thing about this flick I found bad.

The writing, first and foremost, was astounding. I was hooked by the time Walter and Phyllis first met and every single word that came out of their mouths were double entendres. And as the film went on and became darker, the wit slowed down, but the fantastic lines still rolled on. I loved lines like "how could I know that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?" and "I couldn't hear my own footsteps; it was the walk of a dead man." There were so many fantastic lines in this movie that I could literally keep going for the rest of this review.

What really helped those lines, though, were the actors and the directing. At times, I was reminded slightly of His Girl Friday and the quickness of the dialogue and the wit that came with it. I loved not only the speed of the delivery, but how strong and meaningful all the lines in this film were. My copy of the film had an introduction before it, and the guy stated that this was easily the best performances in the careers of everybody who participated. I'm no classic film buff by any means, but Hell... as far as I know, he's right. Everybody did so well.

I loved the framing of the shots. There's an intense moment where Keyes is leaving Walter's place and Phyllis is dropping in, but they can't be seen together, so Phyllis is hiding behind Walter's open door with Keyes just on the other side. That's a great shot. I love the decision not to show the actual murder, but instead you hear it. And then all the shadow shots, which I suppose are usual for the genre.

The use of noir voice-over is so natural as it has a perfect, in-story reason for it to be happening. There are some nice twists at the end that caught me off guard. The reversal of the match lighting in the final scene. I know I'm gushing, and this doesn't make for a very entertaining review. If you want negative, the best I can give is that maybe there were 1 or 2 scenes that dragged for a minute or so too long, but that's about it. Great writing, great suspense, and just all-around great flick. I guess I kinda liked it.

Rating System.
Royale With Cheese


  1. So now you understand a few things about me. First, now you know why I try to watch this at least once a year. Second, now you know why I have a classic film crush on Barbara Stanwyck.

    Never thought you'd like it this much, but I'm glad you did.

  2. Nice Review.

    I am a biug fan of this film, and never thought I would be turned on by a woman wearing a bathrobe, but Barbara Stanwyck is very hot in this. It's a great Noir film


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